Probably the greatest gift that I have ever received, from anyone, was the first Bible I was old enough to read.
Oh, I was given story bibles with those smiling pictures and happy tales of when God did great things for those men, and women, of old. But I always knew that I wasn’t getting the whole picture, it was like I was getting spoon-fed some rhetoric, choice tales about God being my “buddy”if I would just put on a smile and believe. So, when I finally got my first “real” Bible, I was excited to be able to get to the real story, not the smiling faces and happy tales that were glossy and inspiring to me as a happy child, I wanted something more to understand the psychology of this God who was recorded as doing these great things.
Did you notice what I said? “[This]God who was recorded as doing these great things.” I wanted His story. I wanted to know about Him. Not just what He had done, but who, as a person He is: His character, His motivation, His ‘end-game’–what he was apparently angling toward, if anything.
Many critics and skeptics, to me, seem to be taking a cursory view of this God who so enamored me, who piqued my curiosity, using terms like megalomaniacal, malevolent, bigoted, genocidal to describe someone. And without drawing any specific lines I just want to take a few moments to unpack and contrast what the critics have said against what I have seen, both in experiential and scriptural revelations.
Megalomaniacal is probably one of the most used. What it often meant is that this God exalts himself. Megalomania is a condition where a person is deluded so much that he believes he has more power and believes that he is more important that he actually is. But, if God IS God, is he really delusional? If he has power to call everything into being with merely the power of his thoughts, that IS true power and that definitely makes Him very important, if not of the utmost importance and makes Him not only worthy of consideration but utmost allegiance.
Malevolent is another adjective used by critics and skeptics. Its root meaning is “having ill will”. So, does this term apply to God, in that it is used to criticize His right, better His imperative , to hold His creation accountable for its actions taken in opposition to His creative intent and the methods He chooses to employ in that task. But, I know it’s bad form to begin a sentence with “but”, let us consider something, a fact left out of the equation, if this God were so, why would he be so kind as to give us the means and opportunity to do otherwise, to do in accordance with his intent? It boggles the mind to call this God by such a term. For a God who would lay to such a stubborn creature as man not only knowledge of His will, but willingness to forgive such transgressions at great cost to Himself gives rise to a word in my vocabulary in direct contradiction to that particular adjective and causes a new one to come to mind: magnificently benevolent.
Another term laid against this God is that He is bigoted. Indeed, he chose one people, one nation out of all those in the world to speak to, to be His spokesman. But, God is sovereign, the utmost sovereign at that, does that not give him the right, the purview to assign for Himself a spokesperson, or people, with which to communicate His wishes and His cardinal points with a race that might look upon this world and wonder? Indeed, there might be circumstances where one might question if they are indeed communicating faithfully, but there are means by which such things can be judged and found worthy or not. If not, then they are worthy of condemnation, but if so then man is bound under them and should adhere to them.
Genocidal is the last and most serious charge that is lain against this God, but is that the case. Indeed it may seems so, but looking at the evidence it falls short. If this God is truly the maker of all men, He sees all men as they truly are, not in the names and shades we do, but at their root. If He does use those terms, it is to rope out those whose crimes are of such high regard that they pose a threat to the body of the whole and, like a cancer targeted by a surgeon, assigns their excision from the living body. The process may seem painful, but the end aim is the betterment of the whole. Such cases brought into evidence as accusation, are often brought without the body of evidence the Judge already assessed against them, and offered as a warning to those left behind. The totality of the picture reveals something greater than a short-sighted, misapplication of a label.
The greater problem is not the picture that we have been shown, it is with the picture we have in our mind. If the image is out of focus, seen in shadow, or in stubborn refusal, then the picture will be warped and unsightly. I have looked into the image and found that it is more beautiful than words can fully express. I long for the reality it offers, for that will make this one pale and squalid in its fulfillment. I wait for the gift to be fully opened either when I close my eyes in death or see it coming like lightening.